Some bands need very little analysis. A young circle of friends writing pop songs, drenching them in distorted guitars and singing simple lyrics as if their lives depended on it – it is the spirit that guarantees that music can’t ever die. When Leeds band Menace Beach arrived in 2014, they were encumbered with considerable hype, which they ably justified with 2015 debut album Ratworld. Now that they have made their first mark, the question is what happens next.
Lemon Memory opener ‘Give Blood’ is a statement. “Why do you always sing about death,” is the recurring mantra from the mouth of Ryan Needham. In other words, why would you use your opportunity to fill people’s ears with anything other than a celebration. With crunchy guitars and a rock solid rhythm propelling it, it is an economical and direct hit of giddy energy. So far, so familiar.
What sets this second album apart from its predecessor is the balance of power in the band. Where Ratworld was driven by Needham’s voice, Lemon Memory sees Liza Violet take the lead on several tracks. She spearheads ‘Maybe We’ll Drown’, for example – an anthem for millennial disaffection if ever there was one. Some may balk at its simplicity, but the song captures a sense of helplessness that the young generation can lay a justifiable claim to.
Elsewhere, Liza’s lead takes the band down a more considered, perhaps even mature path. Tracks such as ‘Owl’ and closer ‘Hexbreaker II’ are not intravenous hits of teenage angst but patiently built, sophisticated numbers, with Liza’s vocals doused in reverb to lend a further element of mystery. One cannot help but imagine that this growing dimension of the band’s character will continue to take on greater dominance in the future.
If that is the case, then they ought to be careful not to lose their grasp on primal expression too. Few British bands of their generation marry an infectious frenzy to a scuzzy, basement-dwelling aesthetic as convincingly as Menace Beach. ‘Suck It Out’ and ‘Darlatoid’ are as ear-catching as anything in Wolf Alice’s catalogue, whilst ‘Can’t Get A Haircut’ sees the band dabbling in swampy, deep grooves to conjure the grandest, bluesiest moment of their career to date. The latter track also delivers Needham’s most profound statement: “Can’t get a haircut if you ain’t got no hair/Can’t go to Liverpool, we’re already there.” A rare misstep comes with the strangely aborted penultimate track ‘Watch Me Boil’, which drops out just as it begins to catch fire.
There are flourishes of experimentation here and there, most notably on the title track, which woozes in such an eerie, time-warped fashion that it calls to mind a ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite’-style Victorian playground. But it is a rare moment of studio trickery on an album that revels in a live, in-the-room production style. If you catch them on tour promoting this record – and you will want to if you give it a listen – then you can expect it to be replicated pretty faithfully. The band appear to be evolving before our eyes, so seize your moment to enjoy them whilst their youthful energy still rules their output.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.